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Habit and Intention in Everyday Life: The Multiple Processes by Which Past Behavior Predicts Future Behavior

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Past behavior guides future responses through 2 processes. Well-practiced behaviors in constant contexts recur because the processing that initiates and controls their performance becomes automatic. Frequency of past behavior then reflects habit strength and has a direct effect on future performance. Alternately, when behaviors are not well learned or when they are performed in unstable or difficult contexts, conscious decision making is likely to be necessary to initiate and carry out the behavior. Under these conditions, past behavior (along with attitudes and subjective norms) may contribute to intentions, and behavior is guided by intentions. These relations between past behavior and future behavior are substantiated in a meta-analytic synthesis of prior research on behavior prediction and in a primary research investigation.
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... Traditionally, in habit research, context is seen as a trigger initiating a habit (Wood and Rünger, 2016). Ouellette and Wood (1998) showed in a meta-analysis that behavior that was previously performed in stable (vs. unstable) contexts was considerably less guided by intention. ...
... This instruction triggers planning of the study behavior that lies before them as conscious decisions on the time and place for each repetition need to be made before each execution, which could have created an intentional focus on the task at hand, potentially resulting in increased situational intention and deliberation concerning the target behavior. As Ouellette and Wood (1998) famously showed, intention is a stronger predictor for future behavior if the behavior was performed seldomly and in varying contexts in the past, which is, next to the frame of participating in an empirical study, a second possible factor that might have increased the habit repetition count in the variable context group. Thus, a milder manipulation of context stability, which would not trigger planning, intention, and deliberation, might result in less total habit repetitions. ...
... Thus, a habit with high execution automaticity should more easily be transferrable to different contexts because of a higher automaticity buffer, while fragile habits (e.g., newly developing and/or complex ones) would suffer much more even from slightly degraded context conditions by taxing already scarce executional automaticity, which would result, as we know, in higher motivational impairments during the habit performance (Stojanovic et al., 2020(Stojanovic et al., , 2021. As modern habit research evolves, the resolution of our understanding goes from rather coarse to more refined: From mere frequency to automaticity (Gardner, 2012) to differentiated instigation and execution automaticity (Gardner et al., 2016); and from mere stable contexts (e.g., Ouellette and Wood, 1998) to measured perceived context stability (this paper) to potentially differentiated trigger and execution effects of context in the future. However, context as a part of habit anatomy is currently still pixelated and more research is needed to empirically distinguish these two types of assumed context effects. ...
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In this paper, we investigate the effects of context stability on automaticity and goal attainment in intentional habit building. We used hierarchical growth curve modeling and multilevel mediation to test our hypotheses on two datasets. In Study 1, N = 95 university students ( N = 2,482 habit repetitions) built new study habits over a period of 6 weeks with manipulated context stability. One group was instructed to constantly vary the context of their habit repetitions by changing rooms and times and the other group was instructed to keep the context of habit performance stable. In Study 2, N = 308 habits ( N = 2,368 habit repetitions) from N = 218 users of a published habit building app were analyzed without manipulating but measuring context stability. We found the same pattern in both datasets: Context stability predicted more automaticity and higher habit repetition goal attainment. We also found that the effect of context stability on habit repetition goal attainment was partially mediated by automaticity in both datasets. These results show that context does not only act as a trigger for habit instigation but also has an ongoing effect on habit execution.
... When a behavior has been performed many times in the past, subsequent behavior increasingly becomes under the control of an automated cognitive process (Aarts, Verplanken and van Knippenberg, 1998). Consumers form favorable intentions about acts they have frequently performed in the past (Ouellette and Wood, 1998), such as repeated use of the product, making them increasingly dependent on the habit (Gefen, 2003) thereby enhancing their BI. ...
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... As past behaviour is typically a strong predictor of future behaviour (Ouellette & Wood, 1998) and ...
Thesis
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... Some behaviour can be predicted from actions in the past (Aarts, et al., 1998) and some processes can determine which past behaviours can better predict the future (Ouellette & Wood, 1998). Travel behaviour is related to social psychology (Anable, 2005; Van et al., 2010), and such behaviour may be influenced by the interplay of infrastructure, neighbourhood characteristics and social circumstances and aims to understand the influence of a variety of Psychological/Economical, Social/Cultural, Environmental/Physical and Structural/Managerial factors (Guell et al., 2012). ...
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... As prior research continually demonstrates, attitudes predict behaviors (Newstrom & Davis, 1993) and past behaviors generally predict future behaviors (Oullette & Wood, 1998). ...
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